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Job ads - "must have a flexible approach to the working day"

(32 Posts)
ISNT Sun 26-Dec-10 15:20:43

Is this code for long hours / being at their beck and call?

If so then probably not the job for me!

And as a semi-serious question - are they allowed to say things like that? (Indirect discrimination etc)

onimolap Sun 26-Dec-10 15:24:10

I'd interpret it as code for being at their beck and call.

Whether it is legal depends on the nature of the work.

Katisha Sun 26-Dec-10 15:26:21

I would ask for clarification before applying.

hairyfairylights Sun 26-Dec-10 15:36:17

Yes they are allowed. It means mucking in.

blueshoes Sun 26-Dec-10 15:41:13

Some jobs have hours that are more unpredictable. And also more people applying than vacancies or attractive enough terms, so the employer can get away with specifying such restrictions and still fill the posts.

Interesting point about indirect discrimination. But if it is a fact of the job (obvious example is armed forces), how else can you say it?

I have seen such words being advertised along the lines of 'able to stay on beyond office hours at short notice'.

hairyfairylights Sun 26-Dec-10 19:27:05

I think some jobs just are like this.

Needing flexibility. it's not just mums that would find this difficult, so I don't agree with the indirect discrimination thing.

For example, medical people (doctors and nurses) cant just walk out in the middle of a crisis because their shift has ended.

ISNT Sun 26-Dec-10 20:06:26

It's just an office job - no emergency type things going to be going on!

I have worked in the industry for years and have not come across this specification on a job ad before! If they mean that people will be required to work overtime/weekends as the business requires then they should say that IMO, be straightforard. This "flexible approach" business is rather vague...

blueshoes Sun 26-Dec-10 22:05:03

Maybe their last employee (who is being replaced) worked to rule. It is vague but just requires you to ask them to elaborate. I don't think it is necessarily sinister. Better they told you their expectations now and save you the trouble of applying.

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 10:44:11

Agree with hairyfairy

In some jobs, there is a need to be flexible. You can't just down tools and walk off just because 'technically' its the end of the working day. And this would apply to men and women.

ISNT Mon 27-Dec-10 11:16:19

This is on 3 different adverts that I saw yesterday - it's obviously becoming a standard statement IYSWIM. In the industry I work in no-one works to rule! It's standard office work, not an industry where people have to work loads and loads of additional hours, but people do work extra now and then to get their work done. Just normal.

I really think they should say what they mean in the ad TBH - why be so vague? The way they put it means that people who have any responsibilities outside work won't apply - I guess that is the intention TBH. It's a bad development IMO.

BikeRunSki Mon 27-Dec-10 11:20:21

It might also work in your favour though. I would not consoder it a deal breaker just yet, until you have talk it through. Could it mean that they might want you to stay late sometimes (and they might even be able to tell you when those times will be) but in exchange, they would not expect you to come in until 10am on other days. it might also mean that they don;t want everyoen to go for lunch at the same time. I would talk to them before dismissing it.

blueshoes Mon 27-Dec-10 11:20:52

I can see it as a symptom of an employers' market at the moment. I believe some employers are being inundated with hundreds of CVs for every vacancy, and are practically begging people to pre-screen themselves.

They won't be able to get away with this when the tide turns and it will ...

Effjay Mon 27-Dec-10 11:24:26

I agree with bikerunski. This could be a sign of the times, with all the flexible working policies flying around. Flexibility works two ways - in return for your flexibility with them, they need to give something back. If you get an interview, I would ask them what that means in practice. If you like what you hear, fine, if you don't, then you could withdraw your application. However, if they have a good flexible working policy, this could really work in your favour

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 11:26:30

"The way they put it means that people who have any responsibilities outside work won't apply"

Hmm, I see what you are saying, but don't the vast majority of people have 'responsibilities' outside work? Most adults have families. Those who don't have children may well have other caring responsibilities, eg elderly parents. And quite apart from caring responsibilities, many people have other perfectly legitimate demands on their time - they may have other regular commitments. Surely the point it, certain jobs require flexibility, and if you are going to be inflexible, then best that you know in advance that the job may not suit you. I don't see it as a gender issue. It's also not impossible to arrange more flexible childcare if caring for children is your responsibility anyway. If you use childcare which stipulates an exact pick up time, then clearly that's inflexible, but many people employ a cm or nanny, or combination of nursery and cm, precisely so that they don't have to leave work on the dot. I was a Head of Year in a secondary school when my children were fairly small, and the nature of that job is that things crop up which need dealing with NOW, so I made sure that I had flexible care in place so that when an issue cropped up with a child or parent which needed dealing with until 6 pm or whatever, I could get on and deal with it. I don't think it means the employer is trying to take advantge by advertising like this - I see it as being honest about what the job entails.

ISNT Mon 27-Dec-10 11:27:52

Flexitime is quite common in this industry, so if that was meant I think they'd put it! As people point out, it's a bonus not a negative.

Also standard not to take lunch at the same time etc. I mean this is all just standard stuff isn't it, they've never put anything in the ads before.

I guess I'll have to call them.

Thing is that even asking what it means will be a black mark, as immediately you're showing yourself as not able to do anything / not totally flexible IYSWIM.

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 11:30:07

Why would it mean a black mark?

I don't see why.

I would interpret it as someone being interested in the post, but wanting a little more detail about what the flexible aspect would involve.

Wouldn't read any more into it than that

ISNT Mon 27-Dec-10 11:30:13

violethill working until 6pm sometimes would be expected, early starts sometimes expected, occasional time away travelling possibly expected. I really don't think that's what they mean.

ISNT Mon 27-Dec-10 11:32:17

Of course it's a black mark! They have said they need flexibility, questioning what that means, displays that there are some ways in which you cannot be flexible, otherwise you wouldn't need to ask. Therefore you fail the criteria.

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 11:36:10

That's why you need to ask!

All jobs will have different expectations which fall within the 'normal range' for them, and then the flexible part is a variation on that.

It would also be useful to know whether the flexible part is relatively predictable - eg would you know about late finishes and travel in advance, or would it be the kind of thing that crops up out of the blue, which might mean having flexible childcare in place permanently.

I just think if you don't enquire, you'll be none the wiser!

blueshoes Mon 27-Dec-10 11:51:45

ISNT, would you prefer the way my current employer went about it and did not mention that was some minor shift work involved in the role ie 3 days a month (with a month's notice) I would work the 'late shift' and go in 2 hours later and leave 2 hours later.

As it turned out, I love working late shifts because I can get errands done in the morning and either dh/aupair would put the children to bed. Bliss!

But I think they took a risk to not specify it in the application or discuss it in the interviews, because they assumed their applicant would not have family responsibilities.

HouseOfBambooootiful Mon 27-Dec-10 12:56:25

My first thought would be that it meant a flexible approach to hours (ie unpaid overtime if it's anything like some of the jobs I've had in the past hmm ).

But it may also be referring to the need to cover for staff who have been made redundant. For example they may not be able to afford reception cover, or office juniors, so other staff are expected to pitch in and cover that work.

It can also work the other way, where you are expected to take on things you have no experience of doing, just because there isn't anyone else available or willing to do it.

That may not be a bad thing if it means you can learn new skills, but obviously it can be stressful and potentially puts a strain on your professionalism and good will.

I would maybe probe this at interview, but in as tactful and positive a tone as possible.

RedRosie Mon 27-Dec-10 13:13:51

In my sector - higher education - we ask for "a flexible and adaptable approach to work." By this we mean putting in time where necessary for the business, and giving it back when times are quiet.

violethill Mon 27-Dec-10 13:43:59

That's exactly the way I would interpret it too RedRosie.

I am in 11-18 education, and have spent several hours today sending off UCAS references. The fact that its a bank holiday is irrelevant - the work needs to be done, the deadline is fast approaching, and they need to be done.

Come June, I will lose my Yr 13 classes, several other classes will be on study leave, and I'll no doubt find my working day is shorter and I get some free weekends.

Its give and take

HouseOfBambooootiful Mon 27-Dec-10 14:02:50

There are many interpretations of flexible really. Some employers just expect extra unpaid overtime when necessary, and aren't happy if you try and take time off in lieu. Others are much fairer about time off in lieu.

I had a job when I was much younger which involved regularly staying late to get things produced to deadline. Deadlines tended to be Fridays, so towards the end of the week the admin staff usually had to stay on for between half an hour and three hours beyond the 5.30pm contracted finish time. There was no time off in lieu. If you HAD to pick up a child by 6pm from nursery there is no way you could have held down a job there. So I guess that was discriminatory (not that they would have given a shit). None of their admin staff had children, now that I think of it. The managers did, but they all had nannies or stay at home partners.

I don't know what the answer is, it's just the way things are in certain sectors.

santagotstuckuptheCHIMCHARney Mon 27-Dec-10 14:19:43

The flexible approach in my job is not about hours in the main, but literally that you have to do different tasks/jobs or roles than you had planned to do. I work in a special school and to be very inflexible i'n your approach to work would just not be an appropriate place to be...

I think you should ask. You'll be no worse off!

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